Covid-safe plans to bring back Chelsea Flower Show in 2021 unveiled

The Chelsea Flower Show in 2019
The Chelsea Flower Show in 2019 (PA Wire)
11:00am, Fri 23 Oct 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

The organisers of the Chelsea Flower Show have announced plans to bring back the horticultural event next year with measures to protect visitors from coronavirus.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was forced to take the world-famous flower show online in 2020 as the pandemic prevented the physical event at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea from going ahead in May.

Now the horticultural charity has announced plans for a longer show in 2021, running for six days for the first time in its 108-year history, from Tuesday May 18 to Sunday May 23.

There will also be fewer visitors – 140,000 across six days compared with 168,500 over five days in 2019 – to help reduce crowds.

The RHS said the show would feel like previous years with show gardens and flower displays (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

Other Covid-safe measures that will be put in place include socially distanced queuing, crowd modelling and space changes to spread popular areas, and requirements to wear masks in indoor areas such as the Great Pavilion.

There are also plans for cashless transactions where possible, a flexible ticket exchange for those with symptoms, enhanced cleaning, and a reduction in closed seated restaurants.

The RHS said it has consulted on the plans and believes it can operate the mostly outdoor event safely for everyone.

Despite the changes, organisers said the show will still resemble the event from previous years, with its range of flower and plant displays and “stunning” show gardens.

Masks will be needed for indoor areas such as the great pavilion with its floral displays (Rebecca Naden/PA) (PA Wire)

While the reduction in numbers and the longer show may be popular with those who long for a less crowded event, the changes may not be permanent.

Helena Pettit, RHS director of shows, said: “We’ve consulted with the emergency services and all safety stakeholders involved with Chelsea Flower Show and everyone is confident in our plans and happy with the work we have done.

“Alongside the additional Covid safety measures, in-ground daily numbers will be reduced and we are pleased to have been able to add an extra day.”

She added: “Despite all the necessary precautions, Chelsea will still feel like the shows of old, with thousands of beautiful flowers and plants filling the displays in the Great Pavilion and the most stunning show gardens in the world.

“Of course some will welcome fewer people in the grounds and the additional day, but, whilst it’s a benefit to visitors, it does impact on nurseries spending one more day away from their businesses and on the funds we can raise to support our vast charitable work, so I’m sure there’ll be lots to evaluate after the show.”

As the world’s most famous gardening event, RHS Chelsea is vital for the horticultural industry, as well as having a huge impact on inspiring people to garden and grow

Sue Biggs, RHS director-general, said the charity has been planning and researching how to open the 2021 show safely and securely since April, and will be consulting with exhibitors and supporting them on the changes.

“As the world’s most famous gardening event, RHS Chelsea is vital for the horticultural industry, as well as having a huge impact on inspiring people to garden and grow, which is so important for everyone’s health and for the environment,” she said.

She also said the charity would be ready to react to any Government advice next May, and would offer refunds on tickets if the show cannot go ahead.

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